Could ESPN leave Bristol? Is ESPN’s Bristol location becoming a detriment to the company?
Former ESPN talent Colin Cowherd shared some of his thoughts about the Bristol location earlier this year on his podcast.
Cowherd said “There are now 31 sports networks. The advantage for ESPN has dried up, as now people have options. Not only 31 sports networks Jason, we have 22 regional sports networks. And they are in cool places to live like New York, and LA, and Boston, and Detroit, and Dallas, and Chicago. What is undoing ESPN and is not spoken about, is no one wants to live in rural Connecticut”
“They used to have the hammer. They don’t anymore. Fox can offer you LA, Chicago, New York, Charlotte. The advantage was, you have to live here. Nobody — elite people — including Olbermann didn’t want to live there. Simmons didn’t want to live there. You didn’t want to live there. I didn’t want to live there. The seven bosses that worked for us at Fox, didn’t want to live there. It has become a huge unspoken disadvantage. Rural Connecticut as a whole is dying.”
It’s a turnoff said Cowherd.
Besides the Bristol location, another factor is ESPN’s personnel costs. Stars at the network often earn anywhere from $1.5 million to $3 million.
The changing media landscape is another factor.
In the month of October 2016, ESPN lost 621,000 subscribers who switched cable/satellite plans or dropped their plans entirely.
In the press release, Disney brought up a rise in programming costs and declining ad revenue as the main reasons for ESPN’s downward spiral.
According to a recent consumer survey conducted by the marketing firm Civic Science and highlighted in a note by BTIG, more than half of cable subscribers would be happy to drop ESPN to save $8 a month.
Disney recently announced that it acquired the majority ownership of BAMTech, LLC and will launch its ESPN-branded multi-sport video streaming service in early 2018, followed by a new Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service in 2019.
“The media landscape is increasingly defined by direct relationships between content creators and consumers, and our control of BAMTech’s full array of innovative technology will give us the power to forge those connections, along with the flexibility to quickly adapt to shifts in the market,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company.
“This acquisition and the launch of our direct-to-consumer services mark an entirely new growth strategy for the Company, one that takes advantage of the incredible opportunity that changing technology provides us to leverage the strength of our great brands.”
With this strategic shift, Disney will also end its distribution agreement with Netflix for subscription streaming of new releases, beginning with the 2019 calendar year theatrical slate.
The new service will be accessed through an enhanced version of the current ESPN app. In addition to the multi-sport service, the ESPN app will include the news, highlights, and scores that fans enjoy today.
Consumers who are pay TV subscribers will also be able to access the ESPN television networks in the same app on an authenticated basis.
For many sports fans, this app will become the digital destination for all their sports content.
So, what does all this turbulence mean for Bristol? Can ESPN survive the ever changing media landscape?
The future is unknown but with a new approach to reach an ever growing digital audience and continued expansion to their campus, it appears ESPN will remain in Bristol at the moment despite what some may say.